I have researched the work of ‘outsider artist’ Judith Scott*1 (now deceased) – she used a variety of wrapping materials & weavings to create large & small structures. She was born with Downs Syndrome, as well as being mute and deaf. She was abandoned to an institution, as she was considered uneducatable by the time she was 7 years old. She experienced social deprivation and massive under stimulation. Her twin sister Joyce, rescued her from this environment later and became her legal guardian.
She was offered a place at an art class, one of the first of its kind for people with disabilities in Ohio. Joyce’s ongoing sisterly support, and this art environment, eventually provided the necessary breeding ground for Judith’s wrapping of objects. No one was able to decipher why she did her artful wrappings, did she see them as art? No one knows. She created over 200 sculptures in her life time. I love her work, it was deeply personal to her and had arisen out of her own world and psyche. This story begs the question about what is art? How many mainstream artists have an idea, then organise other people to construct the work? Here in Judith, was art that came out of her very being, she manifested every thread, shape and layer. An interesting article in Crafts magazine*2, describes the rise of the outsider artist, into mainstream galleries. The article featured Judith Scott and her sculptures in the March /April 2016 issue.
The American visual artist/photographer Frances Lina Conde stayed at my house for 10 days, during this period and she introduced me to her wrapped organic wire formed shapes that were photographed and juxtaposed against the stark extraordinary landscapes of Lanzarote. She had an exhibition “Profundidad”, in Barcelona, March 2016.
Eager to begin, my starting point was to do a number of small wrappings on various surfaces , for example wrapping thread around wire, tiny bundles of fabric; wrapping screws and rawl plugs; wrapping CD inserts with yarn.
Next, I cast my eye around the house and my ‘stash’ of found objects (mostly broken pieces of domestic ephemera ). Once selected, I choose a bold shiny fabric and a flat matt complimentary colored thread for a wrap. With the wrappings in place disguising its origins, I loved its unintended organic shape immediately. I did a second wrap to part of the piece in fine gold wire, which gave a web-like gossamer effect. It became a talking point in the room. No one could guess what ordinary object was underneath those wrappings (2.2.1WMT).
My next samples (2.2.2a-c) started life as a vintage, twin candle holder. The meaning for me is that it is a holder of ‘light’ in a sometimes ‘dark’ world. I wrapped it in see-through plastic film, so that initially I could see right through to the object. It was undisguised. The object has some interesting features that could be teased into intriguing wraps. The next wrap was fine silver thread. My initial aim was to see as much of the object as possible.
However, as I wrapped, I questioned whether keeping this idea of ‘light’, was useful, given how much of a dichotomy there is in the world, especially since the refugee crises and humanitarian issues that have been in the news and affected so much of Europe. As I see it, there is as much ‘darkness’ as ‘light’. I’m thinking of religious fundamentalism, war, profits-before-people, greed, femicide(*3), genocide, pollution. I wrapped it in a dark black thread for this reason.
This was not enough to make a statement. I wrapped it in thick grey yarn to see where this would take this piece. I wanted it to be more menacing. I wrapped across as well as around and then turned the object upside. Now, the appearance has a more, demonic quality. Can I keep going? Or is it enough? This is starting to look like a darker, gloomier image, the opposite of light. This is the Goddess of darkness and dark forces. And like Kali, her Indian counterpart, and Nix from the Greeks, she was at once the ‘giver of life’ and at the same time ‘the wielder of the destructive powers of nature’. Light and dark at the same time.
The Lampedusa Cross by carpenter Francesco Tuccio was created from the wreckage of a boat that had been carrying 500 fleeing refugees on 11 October, 2013. It sank off the coast of Sicily where Tuccio lived, only 151 people survived. He collected the flotsum of wood, he created crosses from the wreck and gave them to the remaining refugees. The Pope travelled to take a service on the island. The BBC picked up the story, The British Museum acquired a cross and have placed it on public display in London.
Tuccio stated …”I hope that if one person sees the Cross and is moved to use their skills to do something about it, that will be great.” Jill Cook, senior curator at the British Museum stated “…I’ve used my skills as a curator to put this in the public eye…” My own response is to use my making skills for this project and to look back to more peaceful cultures and create my own symbol.
The Vinca goddess culture has left behind hundreds of sculptures and this topic found its way into my next wrapping. Many of the sculptures have elongated necks, amorphous bodies and rounded hips. I had to recreate a stone sculpture using a styrofoam sphere, cardboard tube, wooden dowling and wire. It took several attempts to get a pleasing shape (2.WM.6a), using the right materials, plus the use of my husbands sacred space (his workshop) and an understanding of using his static electric drill with various drill bits. I have spent hours getting it this far. I finally stitched a layer of torn organza into the former before inserting an Indian mantra into the cardboard tube (for peace and protection of the whole world). I swapped the first idea of using cocktail sticks wrapped with pipe-cleaners to make the arms, with wooden doweling, it is stronger and it makes the whole structure more solid. Only then did I begin wrapping in yarn, string and crochet thread (red for fire, brown for the earth and blue for the sky and sea). That was the easy part, it has taken days of planning and execution.
*1 Judith Scot http://judithandjoycescott.com/
*2 The rise of the outsider artist. “Why Outsider Art is All the Rage” Glen Adamson, Crafts magazine. Issue 259, February 2016
*3 The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe by Marija Gimbutas. ISBN 0-520-04655-2